Hispanic Job Gains Not Felt on Long Island

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A new study from the White House’s Economic Report for The President has some great news for Hispanic workers: Their rate of employment is growing faster than that of any other group.

The bad news? That growth isn’t really affecting Long Island yet, according to economic experts.

The New York Times reported on March 8 that the White House study revealed that employment among Hispanics has increased 5 percent over the past 12 months, compared with 3.8 percent for African-Americans, and 1.4 percent for whites.

In fact, of America’s major racial and ethnic groups, only Hispanics had, by the end of 2014, returned to their unemployment levels before the 2008 recession hit.

One of the biggest reasons for the vast growth, according to experts, is the recovering construction industry, which employs large numbers of Hispanics in states like California, Florida, and Texas (315,000 Hispanic jobs were created in construction in 2014), and a decline in illegal immigration, with border crackdowns resulting in fewer Hispanics competing for jobs.

Another recent report, put out by IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm, was even sunnier for Hispanic employment; IHS projects that Hispanics could account for 40 percent of new U.S. job growth by 2020.

But while the news is excellent for Hispanics and the U.S. economy overall, New York State and Long Island aren’t necessarily benefitting yet. (Neither report offered a state-by-state breakdown of Hispanic job growth in the study.)

Clearly Hispanic job growth is good for New York Hispanics, but the jobs haven’t materialized yet here.

Martin Melkonian, an adjunct associate professor of economics and Hofstra University pointed to a study done by Hofstra’s Regional Labor Review in December.

The study found that Long Island employment overall was down 35,000 workers from Sept. 2013-Sept. 2014, and Suffolk saw a 0.4 percent drop in wages, while Nassau had just a 1.8 percent raise in wages; adjusted for inflation, Long Island saw an overall drop in wages. Hofstra’s report also found the overall labor force is down 60,000 workers.

“The picture isn’t as rosy here, unfortunately,” said Melkonian. “Construction, which was robust elsewhere, is still rather modestly (growing) here. “Long Island Latino job growth is not keeping pace, simply because overall Long Island job growth isn’t keeping up with the rest of the nation.”

David Kallick, the director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute cautioned about extrapolating national trends to Long Island.

“It’s a complicated issue that involves looking at payroll data and other factors,” Kallick said.

The topic of Hispanic and immigrant job growth was a central part of Long Island Wins’ summit on immigration, which took place at Hofstra University on Feb. 26. Kallick and Melkonian co-facilitated the economy breakout session at the summit—one of seven breakout sessions, each of which focused on an important aspect of immigration. The goal of the summit sessions was to develop action items that advocates and professionals could take away and apply in their work and daily life.

One of those action steps was to develop a plan to boost Hispanic and other immigrants’ job growth on Long Island through state and federal funding. This includes the creation of job-training programs, English-as-a-second language (ESL) classes, and more.

“The New York State Senate has it in their power to create funds to help get more immigrants working,” Melkonian said. “If that happens, we may see (Hispanic) job growth look more like the rest of the country.”

Long Island Wins is forming a Working Group to further the discussions started at the summit and see the action plans through to fruition. Stay tuned to Long Island Wins’ website for more information about the summit, its breakout sessions, and the post-summit Working Groups.


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